By Jerome Lagunzad
Saving its best for last, Batang Gilas romped past New Zealand, 73-51, yesterday to close out its 2018 FIBA Under-17 Basketball World Cup campaign on a strong note at the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional in Santa Fe, Argentina.
Prized center Kai Zachary Sotto dominated anew with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks while five other teammates tallied at least seven points each as the Nationals asserted their might over the Kiwis early on and hardly gave them a chance to make any headway in the second half.
The resounding victory came on the heels of a thrilling 70-69 win over African contender Egypt the other day as Batang Gilas finished 13th overall, two rungs higher than its previous showing back in the 2014 edition held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“Winning the last two games and placing 13th (overall) in the World Cup is something to be proud of. It also shows how successful our program is,” said Batang Gilas coach Mike Oliver, who himself became the first Filipino coach in recent memory to score at least two victories in the world stage.
“This group is amazing. From the coaching staff, management, utility men and players, all worked together to achieve our common goal of having a respectable place in the World Cup.”